Conscious listening will transform your life. It is the most important recreation in developing and maintaining meaningful relationships. Improved listening skills will enhance your communication with family, friends, and in business. We will discuss two powerful principles that comprise conscious listening. The first is listening from not knowing, and the second is listening with the intent of giving others the impression that you have heard and understood them. To understand conscious listening, we must explore our current habit of listening from knowing.
Listening From Knowing (Old Habit)
When you are around a person for a long time, you tend to listen to them from knowing. You know how they are, what they are thinking and what they will say next. Couples who have been together for a long time will finish each other’s sentences. This type of relating leaves no space for anything new. It is a subconscious form of judgment that creates the same recurrent patterns and interactions that turn into boredom and frustration.
This lack of newness and variety is a common reason why most relationships are in conflict management instead of thriving in a creative process. Relationships in conflict will see their communication patterns deteriorate. You know your spouse, they know you, and eventually you live a routine where your conversations and methods of relating are the same, day in and day out. The patterns of communication you have developed become a tedious habit instead of a pathway to greater love and appreciation.
Every relationship will develop its unique patterns of conflict. Eventually, if you are not careful, you will no longer listen to each other. Your conversations will turn into competitions on who has the most clever or sarcastic response. The need to be listened to and to be understood is so deep, and so profound that couples will often seek this in other relationships.
Listening From Not Knowing (New Habit)
Listening from not knowing is a counterintuitive concept. Our society puts a high value on knowledge. We take pride in knowing facts. The “inside scoop” is coveted. Knowing does not work with people we are in a relationship with, whether at home or at work. When you think you know someone, your relationship stagnates.
Perhaps the greatest symbol of love is conscious listening. Your soul yearns to be fully and deeply understood. You want nothing more than to feel connected to someone with your whole mind, spirit, and body. This type of connection is achieved with conscious listening.
You want to experience a relationship as if it is new and exciting every minute. Imagine if you could listen to your spouse as if you were meeting him/her for the first time. Through conscious listening you can listen from not knowing, and feel anew in your relationships. Conscious listening is a valuable tool in any interaction, making your relationships fun, exciting and spontaneous. You will see things in others and yourself that you never noticed before. You will achieve a new level of intimacy.
Socrates said, “The only thing I know is that I don’t know.” When you examine this paradox, you will see that knowing is a form of judgment, and a way of living in the past. Your past should not be the filter by which you interact with people, as it will prevent your relationships from moving forward. To prevent judgment, employ the important distinction of discernment. Discerning is sensing if a person, place, situation or philosophy is consistent with you and your vision for life. Discernment takes the right and wrong out of your relationships and puts you in the mindset of what does and does not work for you. Discernment brings clarity, and when you have clarity, it is easy to determine what is consistent or inconsistent with your personal vision.
Listening from not knowing should be applied to all your relationships. Relationships formed this way are healthy, conscious and creative. Eliminate relationships that drain your energy and waste your time. Here is a simple way to tell if you should be spending your time with someone: Find likeminded people. People with a low level of consciousness will typically talk about other people (gossip). Individuals with an average level of consciousness will talk about events (the weather, the news). People with a high level of consciousness will discuss ideas. Find people who are likeminded and committed to the ideas that will move your life and our world forward.
Listen and Understand
Giving another the experience of being listened to and understood fulfills one of the greatest human needs. This goes beyond being able to repeat the other person’s words. It is giving them your complete attention without judgment and with the intention of understanding them. A useful exercise to this end is to picture in your mind what is being said, while eliminating your preconceived notions. Create images of their spoken words rather than crafting your witty response. This enables you to listen more attentively and without bias.
When listening with the intent of responding, or wanting to fix another’s problem, there is no understanding. This type of response feels like judgment rather than communication. You can never help anyone without first understanding them. Salespeople are notorious for this; they are typically focused on one result, closing the sale. They rarely bother to listen and learn if the product is of real value to the potential customer. Doctors rarely listen to their patients because they are looking for what’s wrong; they have been trained to identify disease. Priests rarely hear you because they are listening for your transgressions. Couples in conflict rarely listen; they are in a power struggle promoting their agendas of right and wrong. Conscious listening and understanding must precede any valuable human interaction, including child-parent, husband-wife, sales, job interviews, doctor-patient, cleric-devotee, etc. When conscious listening is a priority all your interactions in life are enhanced.
Beware of those who talk at you or try to convince you. These people typically are your stockbroker, lawyer, priest, minister, rabbi, and politician. Sometimes, they have your best interests at heart, though sometimes they do not. They cannot help you unless they understand you through conscious listening.
One of the most valuable uses of your time is to cultivate the art of listening. Valuable communication is a process of understanding, not persuasion. Practice daily the recreation of listening from not knowing. Give people the experience of being heard and understood. This recreation will transform all your relationships.